Gaming industry conferences are a dime a dozen these days. GIGSE, IGNA, ICE, NIGA, NIGC … Barcelona, Amsterdam … G2E Vegas, G2E Macau … It’s often many of the same people talking about the same topics related to gaming — forward thinking statements, sure — but all the different wonk-fabs have their own unique flavor and some stand out as a bigger deal than others.
This one is a symposium with roots going all the way back to the ‘70s. ICGRT is put on by UNLV’s International Gaming Institute and UNR’s (University of Nevada, Reno) Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming — yeow, that’s a lotta capital letters! But no wonder, as presumably ICGRT is how UNLV (and the entire University of Nevada system) cements its status as an THE academic authority for a global industry meriting full-scale study not just by huckster entrepreneurs and casino big bosses, but by doctors of philosophy and unencumbered statisticians.
This gathering of gaming intelligentsia will feature some 300 presenters over five days. I’m part of the Corporate Communication and Social Responsibility panel, where I’ll be presenting industry leaders, regulators, and policy researchers my study on:
Publish or perish, yo … good times ahead, for sure. Conference starts Monday. My group goes last on Friday… so that makes us the headliner! after five days of intensive powerpointing just steps away from high-dollar blackjack and the Pussycat Dolls, I’m sure the crowds will be all warmed up for that serious learnin’ we’re ready to drop.
Clearly my life would be better if it weren’t for that friggin’ flush card.
Nevada online poker is here! Kinda-sorta at least for those not on a Mac and/or Verizon. Dan stops by the offices of the new UltimatePoker.com to find an old-school PokerStars crew manning the Station Casinos outpost, while Dave pops in to a near-Strip location to fund his account with real money he someday hopes to play. Things are looking up for the Vegas Grinders crew, but just to be sure it stays that way, poker’s premier mentalist Jared Tendler pops into the VG virtual studio to see how Dave’s doing, and in the process pumps us full of general life wisdom-science for optimal ways to combat extended downswings, “beaten dog syndrome,” and Mid-WSOP burnout. Yet in the end he tells Dave not to read his new book, WTF?
Putting a 24-hour casino in every home comes with great responsibility. Ensuring a safe, responsible gambling experience should be of paramount importance. Online gambling companies talk incessantly about revenue, but it is everyone’s responsibility–from regulatory bodies to operators, from governments to the citizens themselves–to require that all proper consumer protections and safeguards are in place before online gambling can go live. It is imperative that all stakeholders in online gambling be well versed not just in its benefits but in its pitfalls as well.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic illustrations of what happens when a gaming company puts revenue before responsibility is the case of Terrance Watanabe who is reported to have lost most of his personal fortune recklessly gambling in Las Vegas. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal published December 5, 2009, “During a year-long gambling binge at the Caesars Palace and Rio casinos in 2007, Terrance Watanabe managed to lose nearly $127 million. The run is believed to be one of the biggest losing streaks by an individual in Las Vegas history.” While Steve Wynn is reported to have barred Watanabe from his casino for compulsive gambling, Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. welcomed him and derived 5.6% of its Las Vegas gambling revenue from him that year.
This case showed such an egregious lack of sound business judgment on the part of Harrah’s, now Caesars Entertainment, that the company was fined $225,000 by New Jersey regulators in March of this year. Gary Thompson, Director of Corporate Communications for Caesars Entertainment said, “Because of the confidential settlement agreement we reached with Watanabe, neither he nor we can make any official comment.” However, he points out that Caesars hired an outside agency to investigate the situation and made procedural changes deemed necessary to prevent recurrences.
Crap. Free hotel room on the Las Vegas Strip, and I left my bathing suit at home.
The Wynn Classic wraps up, and so does Erick Lindgren’s brief flirtation with redemption. (LOL-ouch on the bubble.) Likewise, Multi Action Poker is out @AriaPoker (like we knew it would be) but Phil Ivey is in — making a not-so-regular stop to play behind his namesake glass walls. Meanwhile, as Nevadans, we begin to think about playing online again, starting with some online satellite freerolls at GoldenNuggetPoker.com … while Dave enjoys a free room at Bally’s — a nice perk for a man hoping to hit it with a bad beat jackpot!
Over @CLVPoker, Hoops and Hold’em is underway; Andrew laments that the one tournament he won has been discontinued. While there may or may not be an upside to being forcibly undefeated, seriously, how-TF do you remove a heads-up bracket tourney from a seasonal series created around March Madness?
Semi-related … can you believe it’s almost pool season?
All that and more in another jam-packed, rip-roarin’ episode of every Vegas local’s favoritisimo new podcast …
Just what poker needs … another podcast! Yep, I know … but this one is different, it’s special … Vegas Grinders we’re calling it — featuring yours truly @Pokerati with @AndrewNeeme and @RandomPoker …just a few dudes grinding out a life in poker, telling you what’s going on at the local tables.
This week we talk about Michael Phelps’ residence in Vegas and his play at Aria and the Palms; and we compare and contrast the WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Palace and the Venetian Deep Stacks, both of which were playing at the same time in February. Andrew, as it turns out, may or may not be on tilt after bubbling the $365 WSOP-Caesars PLO. We also take a look at the recently released 2013 WSOP schedule, and question the hairiness factor in the new variable buy-in “ladies” event. All that, plus the Millionaire Maker and LOL the tag-team charity tourney this weekend at Binion’s. We wanna know, will Dave ever get there on his heart draw?
Let’s hope it’s an omen. I picked up pocket Aces on my first hand in the new-and-improved Venetian poker room. My good friend and fellow Pokeratier Andrew raised into me, then called my three-bet “just in case” before check-folding the flop.
$10 Million Rebuy: The Venetian poker room has expanded to add 50 percent more tables and hopefully 50 percent more donkey tourists.
The new digs reopened at 5 am Wednesday; I arrived around 4:30 pm, or what Vegas grinders call morning. I wanted to see what a month-long renovation and supposedly $10 million could do for a major poker room. And I can tell you, this is now the fanciest poker joint in Vegas — if only for the giant, shimmering chandeliers hanging under a Renaissance ceiling mural at the front of the room.
Here’s some of what I couldn’t help but notice upon re-entering this previously familiar poker space:
Dan Bilzerian tweeted this picture of $9.4 million in chips with the caption: “Our poker game is officially fucking huge.”
Flags were flying around Las Vegas — and it had more to do with the WSOP than the 4th of July.
Sure, you can always expect to see more $5,000 chips in play on Vegas felts during the WSOP, but the super-high-stakes action that requires them really picked up this summer — more so than usual, it seems, particularly in the days leading up to Big One for One Drop, the biggest buy-in tournament in history.
Pots in the hundreds of thousands of dollars practically became the norm in The Ivey Room at Aria, where a bunch of billionaires and Hollywood socialites were playing $2k/$4k NL for more than a week. At the same time, a $1k/$2k PLO game was going on in the Pavillion Room at the WSOP, and Doyle Brunson was logging super-long sessions at his home room in Bellagio.
Poker room supervisors say Vegas hasn’t seen this level of action since billionaire banker Andy Beal took on “the Corporation” at the Wynn in 2004. ($15k/$30k and $30k/$60k heads-up limit hold’em was their game.) There’s some chatter among Vegas regs about how different poker rooms go about bringing in certain players while keeping others out — lest the biggest casino whales get devoured too quickly by certain poker sharks.
Here is a 2012 guide to the who/what/when/where/why of the really big games around Las Vegas:
The WSOP isn’t just about the WSOP … you have tournament options of notable field sizes and different game varieties all across town. While Aria has opened an entire new section for dailies, Bellagio cleared a section for tournaments and TV cameras and Binions made way for more tables, too. There’s a summer “classic” at Wynn and the Deep Stacks Extravaganza is back at Venetian, while Golden Nugget and Caesars Palace gear up for the Grand Poker and Mega Stack series’ respectively.
The temporary poker room at IP during construction of the Linq project is currently enjoying Quad-a-Palooza.
In the weeks leading up to the World Series of Poker, grinders all over Vegas start making big plans. Even small-stakes guys like me and my friends want a piece of the action. But with the major online sites shuttered for US players, we must hunt for a way to qualify for a bracelet event.
WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart told reporters that Caesars properties would increase satellites leading up to the series.
Caesars Palace just launched its WSOP Warm-Up, running through May 20, with tournaments as low as $130 that have $20,000 guaranteed prize pools and $1,000 WSOP seats.
My friends and I decided to skip those tournaments for now — thinking we’d hit a few of the smaller Caesars properties to increase our chances of scoring a seat. These rooms wouldn’t be as packed with local grinders, we figured, and the games would be less volatile.
My brother Chris and I, hiking Runyon Canyon above LA
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably either a poker player or fan of the game in some fashion. You know that the games in Las Vegas are plentiful on any day of the week. The weekend crowd consists of tourists from all parts of the US escaping their routine lives for a few days in the desert. During the week, the player ratio skews more towards Europeans on extended holiday, mixed with the company conference crowd and conventioneers. There are always locals in the game and during the daytime, they can represent 50 percent or more of the table lineup, even at Strip properties.
At nighttime the ratio shifts more towards the out-of-towners, but where the tourists are, there will always be local regs scattered about.
It’s so fun playing a heads-up tournament. You get to play every hand… what more needs to be said?
As a poker player and/or fan, you might’ve heard that while Las Vegas is the gambling epicenter of the US, when it comes to poker, the true Mecca is actually located in Los Angeles. And after a recent return visit to my old stomping grounds, I was quickly reminded of that fact. The LA cardrooms are different in so many ways from their Vegas counterparts in everything from the atmosphere to the feel of the cards to the player makeup to what’s comped and what isn’t. At any one time in the Commerce, Bicycle, Hustler or any other casinos that occupy very non-glitzy East LA districts, you won’t find more than 1 percent of the player pool designated as “tourists”. No tourist is going to take time out of enjoying gorgeous Malibu or exploring the weirdness of Venice Beach to grind Commerce Casino. These places are packed with locals who love poker, love gambling, and very much love action. They absolutely have to… how else could you explain these folks braving horrific Los Angeles traffic to get to Bell Gardens to play $2/$3NL midweek? It’s true, you do get comped food from a rather impressive menu at the Bike, as opposed to free cocktails a la Las Vegas. But I have to assume it’s more than that. Poker has become a real part of several cultures that make up Los Angeles’ diverse demographics. It’s been that way for decades now, before the no-limit era and now well into it.
It’s a closed tournament open only to current MBA students and accredited MBA alumni (please show your proof of registration or diploma at the window?) … but with a few hundred chicks and dudes hoping to power-suit their way to the personal 1-percenthood coming to town for multiple days — and tourney instructions that say: “this event has traditionally attracted players who are familiar with Texas Hold-em (so we suggest you read up on the rules before you arrive)” — it might be worth checking out.
Competing with the cash games for their Business School interests are a bunch of “networking seminars” — which are supposedly what draw the MBAers here on this special (to them) pokery weekend.
Check out the vid of what the Caesars Empire currently has populating one poker corner of the Las Vegas Strip:
It’s been a few weeks since my last post but the grinding hasn’t stopped. Well, actually I didn’t play much at all over the Thanksgiving weekend as I spent the holiday in Palm Springs with some family. Here are some photos!
Front of the house we stayed at in Palm Springs
Top of a mountain, accessible by gondola, looking down on Palm Springs
Some cool trees on the mountain top
I went into a bit of a breakeven stretch over the following four sessions. I have only myself to blame for this because I failed to use any sort of anti-jinx methodology. For example, say you send a tweet talking about how hard you’re crushing a game or how amazing you’ve been running at the tables. I usually don’t like to write such tweets because over 50 percent of the time they carry the jinx-virus, which will abruptly halt any and all rungood and stop it dead in its tracks. That being said, it is possible to tweet such thoughts to the twittersphere, but it would be foolish to do so without using anti-jinx protection. You’re simply putting yourself and your bankroll at risk without strapping on a hashtag along the lines of #plsdontjinxitkthx at the end of your happy tweets.
I don’t know why we call the poker gods, Gods, but we do. They seem more like a bunch of high school dropout, weird uncle, goofball idiots to me. When they abandon you, it is the filthiest, loneliest feeling you can imagine. But when they reflect their light on you for any kind of extended stretch, you feel, well, enlightened. Chosen. So in tune with everything you can hear the hum of the earth.
I somehow managed to sneak a $117 victory past the jinx-bouncers playing $1/$3NL at the Rio on the 1st of the month. But the next day when I ventured into the Palace of Caesar, his games of $1 and $3 were not so kind. I left @CLVPoker $400 lighter in the pocket, and followed that with a small $85 loss on the 3rd. My spirits were quickly risen on the very next day, which was a Thursday. Thursday evenings, as you should know by now, means Pokerati game night. The PLO/NL mixed game has treated me really well since its incarnation @PalmsPokerRm (#nojinxnojinxnojinx) and this particular Thursday brought happiness in the form of a $520 win, erasing losses from the previous two sessions. Unfortunately the breakeven stretch continued another day; on Friday I played a long, 10-hour session at the Rio dropping about $700 in frustrating fashion. Actually there was a pretty interesting hand from said session…
All patched up and places to go ... Sengphet prepped for her shot at a hard-earned championship bracelet.
Someone will win the first bracelet of the 2011 WSOP today, before registration opens for event #1. We listed about 13 percent of the field as people who might be worth watching, just because, and three of them made it to the final table and ITM of the WSOP-freeroll championship … which I’m not sure whether or not qualifies for POY points but obviously should. You’ll have to just believe us that the guy who woulda been my 14th pick on that list was Huy Nguyen, who ended Day 2 yesterday by banking $27,500 for 10th place.
So cards just got in the air for the first televised event of the 2011 WSOP, and of the 10s of thousands of players who had a chance to be here, three of them are from Dallas (though one has since moved to Las Vegas), and one has been part of Team Pokerati since she got a lotta chips in the 2010 WSOP ladies event.
Go La Sengphet! Also go Josh Evans! And though for a while I wasn’t sure if I had first seen him at Jackie’s in Dallas or maybe was just confusing him with a guy seen once at the Venetian, go Charles “Woody” Moore! All three of these players and the others are anything but luckboxes in a sit-n-go … they are real grinders and rounders with skill … and a win here, my contention, is a ticket to the real big leagues … as the winner of today’s event will be known all around as a real real player, and will have the bankroll — $300k for first — to prove it for as long as they can hold as a true and successful pro.
Consider him my new favorite cousin I never knew I had and the newest member of Team Pokerati even though he hasn’t yet picked up his patch. Big props to William Michalski (I think he goes by Bill) from Syracuse, New York.